Press Room NEWSLETTERS
February 20, 2015

ED Review ... ...a bi-weekly update on U.S. Department of Education activities relevant to the Intergovernmental and Corporate community and other stakeholders

What's inside...
The President and ESEA
The Secretary and ESEA
High School Graduation Rate
Funding Opportunities
Consequential Videos
Odds and Ends
Quote to Note
Upcoming Events

The President and ESEA

In his recent weekly address, President Obama laid out his plan to ensure more children graduate from school fully prepared for college, careers, and life. Our elementary and secondary schools are doing better, as demonstrated by the news this past week that the high school graduation rate has hit an all-time high, but there is still more that can be done to make sure every child receives a quality education. That is why the President wants to replace No Child Left Behind with a new law that addresses the overuse of standardized tests, makes a real investment in preschool, and gives every child a fair shot at success. He reminded everyone that, when educating our students—the future of our nation—we "should not accept anything less than the best."

"Denying a quality education to the children of working families is as wrong as denying health care or child care to working families. We are better than this," he stressed. "Some of these changes are hard. They'll require us to demand more of our schools and more of our kids.... They'll require us to demand that Washington treat education reform as the dedicated progress of decades—something a town with a short attention span does not always do well. But, I'm confident we can do this. When it comes to education, we are not a collection of states competing against one another; we are a nation competing against the world."

Also, the White House Domestic Policy Council released a report breaking down the harmful effects of a bill being advanced in the U.S. House of Representatives that would lock-in sequestration funding levels, eliminate accountability for taxpayer dollars, and allow states to shift federal Title I funding from high-poverty schools to more affluent districts. The President has a different vision to improve schools and help teachers by giving them the resources they need, identifying what works, and fixing what does not work. His budget would invest an additional $2.7 billion in Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) programs next year alone (blog post).

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The Secretary and ESEA

In successive events at Bates Middle School in Maryland (February 4) and Cardozo Education Campus in Washington, D.C. (February 9), Secretary Duncan talked with students, parents, teachers, and leaders about ESEA and highlighted the progress schools have made with federal support. Bates has recorded a significant turnaround after becoming an arts-integrated school with assistance from a federal arts grant. Likewise, Cardozo is making major gains with the help of an Investing in Innovation (i3) grant (blog post).

In a related post, the Department's Office of Innovation and Improvement (OII) spotlights the Road Map Project, a Seattle-area partnership of districts that doubled the number of students in the region on track to graduate from college or earn an industry credential with support from a Race to the Top-District grant.

Also, the Secretary penned a couple of op-eds on ESEA: addressing America's teachers and principals and fixing struggling schools.

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High School Graduation Rate

As noted earlier, U.S. students are graduating from high school at a record rate (press release). The nation's high school graduation rate hit 81% in 2012-13, the highest level since states adopted a new, uniform way of calculating graduation rates five years ago. Indeed, for three consecutive years, graduation rates have continued to climb, reflecting continued progress among America's students. To view the data—including a state-by-state breakdown—go here. The Department plans to release graduation rates for minority students, English learners, and students with disabilities in the coming weeks.

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Funding Opportunities

For the current fiscal year, OII will conduct 11 grant competitions in six program areas: Arts in Education, Charter Schools, Investing in Innovation, Opportunity Scholarships, Ready to Learn Television, and Supporting Effective Educator Development. Announcements of these competitions began this month (see open competitions) and will continue through this spring and summer (see FY 2015 grants forecast).

In a blog post and video, the Secretary urged all local superintendents and technology directors to get their schools and libraries "up to speed" by requesting E-Rate support for internal Wi-Fi network upgrades. The Department has prepared an Infrastructure Guide to help leaders navigate the many decisions required to deliver cutting-edge connectivity to students, although schools and libraries have final say when they submit an application to the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) for approval. (Note: The deadline for requests is February 26, while the deadline for applications is March 26.)

Meanwhile, the President has proposed to create a new $200 million American Technical Training Fund that would expand innovative technical training programs that are aligned with the workforce needs of employers in high-demand industries. The fund would enable the creation of 100 technical training centers across the country, modeled on the Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology, which have achieved impressive program completion and job placement rates with many non-traditional students.

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Consequential Videos

Mott Hall Bridges Academy Principal Nadia Lopez captured the attention of the nation after being featured on the "Humans of New York" blog. Since then, she has helped raise more than $1 million for her students and recently met with the President and Secretary. In a video, Principal Lopez reflects on her experience, reminding educators of the impact their words can have on the success of their students.

Following Michael Brown's tragic death, Secretary Duncan traveled to Ferguson, Missouri, to listen to students, educators, and community leaders speak about race, equity, and trust since the shooting. As he noted in a video, he felt "searing honesty, as well as a deep sense of selflessness." He also saw a willingness to reflect and a commitment to long-term action.

Also, the Secretary recorded a special Valentine's Day video message for America's teachers.

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Odds and Ends

  • The President is committed to giving every child the chance to explore America's great outdoors and unique history. That is why he has launched the Every Kid in a Park initiative (fact sheet), calling on federal agencies to help get all children to visit and enjoy the outdoors and inspire a new generation of Americans to experience the country's public lands and waters. Starting in September, every fourth-grader in the nation will receive a pass for free admission to all of America's federal lands and waters—for them and their families—for a full year.

  • The Department invited 15 young Native Americans for a Student Voices session with the Secretary. The session was a capstone to the agency's first-ever School Environment Listening Session—a nine-city tour in seven states, designed to identify the impact of school environment on Native Americans. During the session, students expressed their great need for cultural and personal support.

  • Back in March 2012, the Department's Office of Federal Student Aid (FSA) announced a new tool to help guidance professionals, school administrators, and practitioners track and subsequently increase Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) completions at high schools nationwide. Over time, FSA enhanced the tool to not only provide FAFSA submission and completion totals for high schools during the current year but also totals for the same time the year before and other benchmark dates. The 2015 FAFSA Completion Tool supplies updated information on a weekly basis during the peak FAFSA application period (blog post).

  • This year, two of the largest tax preparers in the nation—H&R Block and Intuit—are using their online tax preparation tools to share information about repayment options, including the President's "Pay As You Earn" plan and the Department's Repayment Estimator (press release).

  • This month is National Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month, and learning how to spot the signs of an abusive relationship can have a dramatic impact on the lives of teens suffering from dating violence—as well as save lives (blog post).

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Quote to Note

"The Republican bill not only cements cuts in education funding for our children, but it also does nothing to guarantee that states continue to invest in education. Rather than helping improve the schools that need it most, the Republican bill would actually cut investments in these schools while increasing funds for some of the wealthiest areas in the country. That approach is backward. We can't just cut our way to opportunity. Our kids deserve better. Every child—no matter his or her zip code—deserves a quality education, including access to high-quality preschool and a fair shot at getting ahead. We need to invest in our educators so they have the resources they need to help children succeed. I respect [House Education and the Workforce Committee] Chairman [John] Kline's commitment to improving schools, and I remain hopeful that we will find a path to bipartisan legislation in the House and the Senate that helps every child be successful in college, careers, and life and delivers on the promise of real opportunity for every child."

        Secretary of Education Arne Duncan (2/11/15), in a statement on ESEA legislation approved by the House Education and the Workforce Committee

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Upcoming Events

The National Assessment Governing Board (NAGB) has made it easier to apply information and findings from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) with its Data Backpack, introduced last fall. Join NAGB for a Google Hangout (February 25, 10:00-11:00 a.m. Eastern Time) to hear how educators and parents can put these tools and resources into action to improve student achievement and inform decision-making.

#AskFAFSA Office Hours are the last Wednesday of each month at 5:00 p.m. ET. This live session on Twitter provides an opportunity to get FAFSA questions answered by the experts. Every month, a different topic related to federal student aid is featured. (Note: The next session is February 25, and February's topic is paying for college.)

Future Ready Regional Summits offer district leaders expert support to create digital learning plans that align with instructional best practices, are implemented by highly trained teachers, and lead to personalized learning experiences for all students. These summits are open to district leadership teams on a first-come, first-served basis, from districts where the superintendents have signed the Future Ready District Pledge. The next summit is in Atlanta, on March 25 and 26. In April, the summits are in Phoenix, on April 13 and 14; Providence, on April 21 and 22; and St. Louis, on April 28 and 29. (Note: The Baltimore summit, originally scheduled for next month, has been rescheduled for June 8 and 9.)

March is Women's History Month. Need help planning education activities? The Federal Registry for Educational Excellence (FREE) web site offers free teaching and learning resources from federal agencies.

Schools around the world are encouraged to celebrate International School Meals Day on March 5 by promoting healthy eating and learning, using the theme "Celebrating Culture Through Food."

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Credits, Subscribe & Unsubscribe

ED Review is a product of the U.S. Department of Education Office of Communications and Outreach, State and Local Engagement—Joseph P. Walsh, Deputy Assistant Secretary

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This newsletter contains hypertext links to information created and maintained by other public and private organizations. These links are provided for the user's convenience. The U.S. Department of Education does not control or guarantee the accuracy, relevance, timeliness, or completeness of this outside information. Furthermore, the inclusion of links is not intended to reflect their importance, nor is it intended to endorse any views expressed, or products or services offered, on these sites, or the organizations sponsoring the sites.

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Last Modified: 02/20/2015